How Would the Environment Fare Under a President Romney?
Not Very Well, His Record as Massachusetts Governor Suggests
Boston — As Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney placed environmental agencies under a business-oriented department, slashed environmental funding and even raided park money to throw a Super Bowl rally for the New England Patriots pro football team. As a result, eco-stewardship sharply declined during Romney’s one term, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
An overriding theme of the Romney administration was that environmental protection was secondary to economic and political ends. This theme was perhaps best illustrated by his–
- Placing state environmental agencies inside an Office for Commonwealth Development, run by transportation, housing and energy interests. State environmental protection decisions thus became subject to approval by managers with primarily economic portfolios. His successor, Gov. Deval Patrick, undid the reorganization in 2008;
- Cutting environmental funding for Massachusetts by 25%. The Romney cuts were so deep that the Commonwealth could no longer meet basic federal anti-pollution requirements; and
- Taking some $45,000 in states parks and conservation money to stage a Super Bowl send-off rally for the New England Patriots over the objections of his Conservation & Recreation Commissioner. Romney then summarily removed her and her top deputy after they refused to hire a Republican politician his office was pushing.
“The Romney administration was a nightmare for environmental protection in Massachusetts,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Keep in mind that he wreaked havoc during a period when he was positioning himself as a moderate. I shudder to think what he would do now on a national level.”
The Patriots rally cost Massachusetts taxpayers approximately $18 per attendee. Five days after the rally, four high school students were struck by a pickup truck on VFW Parkway in West Roxbury, a highway managed by the Department of Conservation & Recreation. School officials blamed the accident on poorly plowed sidewalks which had forced the students into the street. Romney’s office also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for Fourth of July celebrations and a Red Sox victory party.
Since there were no real environmental initiatives under Romney, there is little to point to by way of environmental accomplishments. PEER is preparing a set of in-depth analyses of Romney actions on air pollution, water quality, toxic clean-ups, land use and transparency, among other topics.
“Frankly, as a manager, Governor Romney was very weak in addressing environmental challenges,” Bennett added. “He also employed a non-consultative, autocratic style that barred consideration of alternatives before sailing off in disastrous directions.”